Seven essential features of effective websites

I am in the process of building a website, which should go live in 2014. My research led me to this article which I thought was very pertinent as far too often when you visit a website your experience is not a good one. Here is a shortened version of the guidelines.

Start by defining your requirements
Even if the project is being managed in-house, write down what you want and what the critical elements need to be in the form of a brief to collect your thoughts. Committing ideas to paper increases the chances of success. I suggest you cover these areas:

Consider first impressions
Your website offers a first impression to many visitors coming into contact with your business for the first time and needs to represent who you are and what you offer. Jacob Nielsen’s belief that you only have ten seconds to show your face to the world has probably been cut to five seconds in 2013 (or even less!).

Build in honesty and integrity
Setting the tone on your website as helpful and offering resources like About Us, Our Mission, Our Philosophy and FAQs all help establish subjective attributes that customers look for. The UPS website showcases lots of ways to use content to provide customer support and useful information.

Make it easy to use
Bad navigation can so often result in a high bounce rate and reduced traffic. Using well-known Western T & F navigation formats ensures visitors can find what they are looking for quickly and easily.

Update the content frequently
Content is the biggest part of your website strategy as it governs your selection of keywords, what you say, how and when you say it. Websites that offer frequent updates to pages that can be subscribed to – such as news and blog pages and other pages – ensures customers come back for more.

Use design as a differentiator
Most of the focus in web design inevitably falls on the process that delivers the look and feel for a website. But the visual branding is really important to help differentiate your offering and to develop credibility. Use templates for different parts of the site – to cover home page, product/service and forms. Do think about typography and images that can make a page really pop. Avoid too much colour and too many distracting animations and calls to action.

Build user experience driven landing pages
User experience (UX) focuses on digital interactive products, including software applications and websites. A positive and consistent user experience can be achieved by combining creative and functional design activity with accessibility, usability, information architecture and user interface design.

Test, test, test
As with all digital projects, testing is crucial – before launch, but also throughout the entire development process. When testing a complex interactive product such as a website, the first questions should reveal whether the system is even ready for further testing. Does it actually work? If the product isn’t usable on even the most basic level, real functional testing cannot begin.

Knowing now that you have five seconds to keep that website visitor a little longer, what will you do differently? Watch this space.